Israel Slams Australia for Ignoring Hamas’s Role in Gaza Conflict

Israel has expressed its disappointment with the Australian government for considering to restore its funding to a UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees, after Israel accused some of its staff members of being involved in the October 7 attacks by Hamas. The Israeli ambassador to Australia said that Australia was forgetting “Hamas’s culpability” for the war in Gaza, and that the UN resolution that called for a humanitarian ceasefire was only helping Hamas to reorganize. The Australian foreign affairs minister, however, said that the allegations against the UN agency were being investigated, and that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza needed to be addressed.

The UN agency in question is UNRWA, or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which provides education, health, and social services to more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The agency has been operating since 1949, and has faced criticism from Israel and the US for allegedly perpetuating the refugee problem and being biased against Israel.

On October 7, 2023, Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, launched a series of attacks against Israel, using rockets, drones, and tunnels. The attacks killed 13 Israelis and wounded more than 100. Israel responded with airstrikes and ground operations, killing more than 200 Palestinians and injuring more than 1,000. The conflict lasted for 11 days, until a UN-brokered ceasefire took effect on October 18.

Israel claimed that some of the UNRWA staff members in Gaza were involved in the October 7 attacks, either by participating directly or by supporting Hamas. Israel said that it had evidence that 12 UNRWA employees were linked to the attacks, and that it had shared the information with the UN and the donor countries. Israel also accused some of the UNRWA teachers of celebrating the attacks on social media, and said that one of the Israeli hostages who was released by Hamas said that she was held in the house of a UNRWA employee.

Australia Suspends Funding to UN Agency Pending Investigation

Australia was one of the countries that suspended its funding to UNRWA after Israel’s allegations. Australia had pledged $6 million to UNRWA in mid-January, as part of its humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. Australia said that it was deeply concerned by the allegations, and that it expected them to be thoroughly investigated and those responsible to be held to account.

The Australian foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, said that Australia supported the UN resolution that called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, and that it condemned the violence and the loss of civilian lives on both sides. She also said that it was important to remember the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and the absence of any alternatives if Australia wanted to ensure that fewer children were starving.

Wong hinted that Australia was considering to resume its funding to UNRWA, depending on the progress of the investigation. She said that Australia had a long-standing partnership with UNRWA, and that it recognized the vital role that the agency played in providing basic services and protection to millions of Palestinian refugees.

Israel Expresses Its Disappointment with Australia’s Stance

Israel, however, was not satisfied with Australia’s stance, and expressed its disappointment with the Australian government. The Israeli ambassador to Australia, Amir Maimon, said that Australia was forgetting “Hamas’s culpability” for the war in Gaza, and that it was ignoring the warnings from the Jewish leaders in Australia about the risk of funding to UNRWA being misused.

Maimon said that 136 Israeli hostages, including infants, were still being held by Hamas, without any trace of assistance from the UN or any of its agencies. He also said that the UN resolution that called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza was only helping Hamas to reorganize, and that it failed to condemn Hamas or to call for the release of all hostages.

Maimon urged the Australian government to reconsider its decision, and to uphold the values and principles that it shared with Israel. He said that Israel expected its friends and allies to stand with it in the fight against terrorism, and to support its right to defend itself and its citizens.

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